In response to my post below, Nightdreamer points to the hypocrisy of those who were at the Makati rally. They were chanting "change, change, change" as they leave garbage on the streets. In my comment section he recounts an instance where a bus driver railed against the lack of discipline on the roads and in the same breath ran a red light.
Arbet, clearly not apolitical, says change begins with ourselves, in our private capacities. He outlines five simple steps on how we can exact change. He says to "translate this inward change outwards." This reminds me of a book that came out a while back, something about how to show your love for the Philippines by buying local goods, paying taxes etc. etc.
But our personal choices, our private choices, especially the ones about following "rules" - traffic rules being the most simple example, are not enough. We need to have trust that the "system" of enforcing the rules will apply to all of us, regardless of who we are. This trust is in public institutions working for the public interest.
On our roads, the most public of social spaces, it is clearly a state of nature, there is a sense that it is every man for himself. Eat or be eaten. We even have a local word for it - gulangan system. On the roads of Manila, gulangan reigns supreme. The only thing preventing roads from descending into chaos is a system of rules that works in the public interest. On a four-way stop for example (interestingly I have not seen one in the Philippines), the first car that gets to the intersection gets to cross first. Knowing this, other drivers will respect the rule, first because he will get a ticket if he doesn't and second because he has respect for the other drivers - that they are, at least on the roads, his equal. That he is not above them, above the rules.
While privately I know I am a good person, and privately I am all for social justice and fairness and equality. Privately I am rooting for every man and woman because I am a democrat. I have been a motorist for over ten years. While the times I have been caught violating traffic rules can be counted on one hand, I have had more than my share of road indiscretions. Privately I grimace, I want to do my duty as a good citizen and part of the community, but there is this sense that the public simply will not let me. On the roads of Manila, eat or be eaten - there is nothing mediating between your murderous road rage and that of the driver next to you. Nothing. Not a system of rules and certainly not the traffic enforcer supposedly embodying the rules.
Privately we are good people and privately we exercise our own version of what is moral. But publicly we become beasts, predators of the worst kind. Eat or be eaten. Haven't you heard countless people marvel at how Filipinos excel and become successful when transplanted abroad?
Clearly there is nothing wrong with the Filipino. What is wrong is this nebulous, amorphous "system." I hadn't thought of it before, and previously it had no name. The system is our public life - how we behave in public spaces. What I meant by "civilising" Philipping politics is the creation of civility in our society - the lack of this feeling that we need to eat or be eaten. That we can let go of our guard and live relatively safe lives in public because we have trust that public institutions will work for (more or less) the majority. Isn't this what we mean by justice?
Now magnify the example of the road to the rest of the country. The Philippines - that one big public space of 85 million private interests - mediated by what? Mediated by whom? What do we do when the institutions which supposedly enforce rules to (more or less) mete justice and fairness are manned by the Biggest Predators of all?
Private changes are not enough. Private choices are not enough. Unless we go and live separately on imaginary islands.